As a stress expert, if Trump looked a bit shaken, I think that he was experiencing a bit of job stress. Job stress is often defined as a mismatch between the capabilities of the worker and the demands of the job. After hearing Obama describe exactly what the job of president entails, Trump might have, just for a moment, wondered whether he was up for the incredible demands of this job. After all, never in the history of the United States has there been a person entering the White House with a bigger mismatch (i.e., less political experience) than Trump.
That’s job stress.
This is not to say that he can’t bridge the gap within a few months (or a year or two) of on-the-job training (OJT). To some extent, every incoming president and every single person entering a new position, deals with this very same mismatch. It’s kind of a grow or die situation. Still, maybe there was a moment when Trump realized just how much OJT would be required of him, as he sat there in the White House, listening to Obama describe what it was REALLY like to be president.
And maybe Obama, knowingly played up the hard parts, without sharing the awesome parts. Or maybe Obama was flat out totally honest about what it meant to be a normal human being while holding the most powerful job title in the world. That alone would humble and shake almost anyone, even someone as supremely confident as Trump.
In addition, we all pursue goals that we think we want. Sometimes we want these goals so badly (as was the case with Trump wanting to be President) that we let nothing stand in our way. But when we actually obtain our goal, sometimes being there isn’t nearly as fun or as interesting as getting there. As Daniel Gilbert points out in his book STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, human beings aren’t very good at predicting what will make them happy. Maybe Trump was experiencing a moment of doubt as to whether this incredible thing that he had accomplished would actually make him happy.
As to what Obama told Trump, my guess is it was similar to whatever George W. Bush told Obama on their first visit: This is an awesome job with awesome responsibilities beyond what you ever dreamed you were capable of handling. Despite all the bad blood that was spilled during this campaign, there’s no reason for Obama not to, at least initially, try to create ties to the incoming administration. Trump is already softening his position on a few issues that Obama holds near and dear, and maybe, as their very private relationship grows, he will soften on a few more issues.
And for Trump, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t want to cultivate a private relationship with a former president. In the book, STRESS AND CHALLENGE AT THE TOP authors Debra Nelson and James Quick contend that the one method that successful executives use most for managing stress is social support.
These executives ARE successful because they build and join support networks, both large and small. And now Trump belongs to the most exclusive support network in the whole world. The POTUS club. And no one will ever understand what he’s going through better than another president. Trump is a businessman and he must know that any enterprise thrives on cultivating good relationships. No doubt, he will try to mend fences as best he can and become a full-fledged member of the club. Even if he takes the country in an entirely new direction, that reservoir of experience will no doubt benefit him and the whole country.